Thursday, 19 June 2014

Fracking in the Cotswolds

This was the title of a presentation given by Dr. Jonathan Whittaker today to the Gloucestershire Churches Environmental Justice Network. A good number of us crowded into the so-called Jerusalem Room over College Green from Gloucester Cathedral to hear it. "I'm a dentist," Jonathan began, "so I know a little about drilling..." He was modest: fracking is clearly a subject he's studied carefully, and puts well into context.

Explaining why the Government is so keen to promote it, he uses the analogy of tobacco. The tax revenues from both shale gas exploration and cigarette sales are a pot of gold too tempting for Chancellors to resist - but the cost of encouraging fracking may outweigh its income stream in the long term, just as the cost of treating lung cancer patients puts the tax from tobacco sales into perspective.

Fracking is, Jonathan concludes, less likely a bridge to the future - more a gangplank. What if - instead - as much were spent on developing (for instance) the Anaconda wave energy converter, pumped hydro energy storage and peak demand control as is scheduled for HS2?

Jerusalem was already on my mind from last night, as we watched Henry IV Part 2, relayed from Stratford-upon-Avon. The king's death in the Jerusalem Chamber takes place off stage, but on stage there's plenty of fine business in Greg Doran's excellent production, in which Oliver Ford Davies as Shallow if anything outperforms Antony Sher as Falstaff. What a play!

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